Control Engineering's HMI Enewsletter -- March 2002


In this issue:



Patent update

You may have noticed that I write e-newsletters for Control Engineering on three different topics-software and IT, embedded control, and HMI. We have 10 channels of information covered by different editors. The idea is that readers will subscribe to the ones they are interested in.

In last week's Control Engineering Software E-newsletter, I re-opened discussion of litigation involving several of Schneider Electric's patents. This was on the occasion of the anniversary of the filing against Opto 22. I don't wish to raise fear, uncertainty, and doubt, but Control Engineering editors felt that people should be reminded what was happening. For more on the subject, visit /ch-software/softenews.asp

I received much related feedback ranging from readers' experience with Schneider Electric service (good and bad) over the past few years to some additional information that I hope to be able to share in the next few weeks. I am a firm believer in open technologies. Opto 22 has been a champion of that for many years. Most other companies are opening their systems. Schneider Electric's Transparent Factory philosophy has touted openness. It remains to be seen just what the definition of open will be. An interesting thread on the Automation List at can be found at .

I'm optimistic that things should be settled by this summer. In the meantime, Control Engineering is investigating just what is true and can be published. I'm sure that I'll have much more information during the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

As always, if you have something to share, email: .

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Servers feedback

There must not be many Linux proponents who read this newsletter. I have received very few Linux-oriented responses over the past few months, but I'll follow Linux and other systems as long as it makes sense for the controls industry. From the comments I received about servers in the last HMI newsletter, it appears a few are investigating Linux for servers. Definitely some have moved to rack-mount servers for manufacturing databases. I'll watch for relevant product news to pass along.

There was one strong comment regarding whether controls or IT should be in charge of those servers. Controls engineers should be in charge. There is still a strong feeling that IT personnel just don't recognize the things that are important, even crucial, to us. Evidently we need to get through to them somehow.

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Control room display

CE's process control guru, Dave Harrold, sent me a link last week about an awesome display for control rooms. I have yet to see one in person, but the picture on the web really looks good. The display is actually three LCDs in one. Panoram PV230DSK provides 2.4 Megapixels of working real-estate featuring a fully articulated swing arm and Digital Direct DVI inputs. The three image-panels feature a separation of only 7/16-in. (11 mm), making it easy to expand information like spreadsheets, schedules, or images across any or all three screens without any detrimental visual breaks. It accommodates RGB and DVI computer sources as well as Composite and S-video inputs. To complement the clean look of the design, the cable management for the data, video, and power cable is integrated into the arm.

For more, go to

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Ruggedized computers

Sometimes a company is quiet for a while then it has several announcements in a row. Last month, I talked about the Dolch six-pac. Now it has introduced FlexPAC P4 industrial portable with Intel Pentium 4 technology. Features include a Pentium 4 processor running at 2GHz, system memory up to 2GB and 16MB of video memory, and a tri-circuit cooling system that can handle up to 150W of heat dissipation. This design integrates temperature monitoring and speed sensitive fans to ensure the best cooling with the least noise. Up to six expansion slots are available for full-sized PCI or ISA add-in cards.

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New 18-in. display

Spire Controls has introduced an 18-in. LCD flat-panel display with touchscreen. The SPIRE-D1800 is designed with the latest TFT technology and can display graphics and text in up to 16 million colors. The NEMA 4/12 display has a depth of only 3-in. It connects to any standard VGA interface and control functions are located on the back panel for convenience and protection. An eight-wire analog resistive touchscreen is standard.

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'Hazard-resistant' portable

Omnicomp Systems has released a portable PC designed for harsh conditions. FieldPro 7000 features an integral 15-in. XGA display with 1,200-nit luminescence, space for four full-length ISA/PCI cards, sealed keyboard and pointing device, and 10 I/O ports. The internal battery charges when the unit is plugged to a power source and acts as an uninterruptable power supply.

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Microsoft operating systems

I've recently seen some questions about Microsoft's operating systems. There are full operating systems and embedded operating systems. Starting with the full operating systems, Windows NT was upgraded to Windows 2000. Windows XP replaces 2000. It also is the first Microsoft OS not built on DOS. It is a client/server operating system with administrator functions and more stability for client (desktop) applications.

The company's true embedded operating system is Windows CE. It has a larger footprint than most other embedded operating systems, but it has many built-in features like networking. CE has just undergone an upgrade-Windows CE.Net. More on this development is available at /archives/news/2002/january/gm0108a.htm

To give industrial computer manufacturers a way to provide a full NT operating system in an 'embedded' environment, that is, booting from ROM or flash and diskless operation, Windows NT Embedded was released. The company skipped the 2000 Embedded edition and went directly to Windows XP Embedded. Read more from Control Engineering at /archives/news/2001/november/gm1129b.htm

Therefore, today's Microsoft operating system choices are Windows XP, Windows XP Embedded, and Windows CE.

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